Now, I know it seems as if I have jumped on the pop-culture bandwagon, and perhaps I have in a way. I first heard about The Hunger Games through a friend, a fellow Mama. Her 16 year old daughter had read the series and convinced my friend to read them. My friend really enjoyed them, said she couldn't put them down. I thought the whole concept seemed a bit nuts, nothing I was interested in. Then somehow or another I heard that they had made the first book into a movie, and some other friends, and fellow Mama's were reading the books because their kiddos had asked to read them/see the movie. So, I figured that I had better read the book in case my kiddos asked to read/see. Big mistake! Not in a bad way, but because I really enjoyed the first 2 books of the series and find my mind wandering to the themes and concepts of the book frequently. I will be getting to these dwellings soon, after I get a chance to
First, I am very glad I read them because my youngest son, a 10 year old 4th grader, asked if he could read it and I could give an educated answer. No, not yet. I don't think he is ready for it. Many of his classmates have read it and some may have seen the movie, but I just think it's a bit early for my kids. But in another 2 years for him, perhaps. Maybe even 3 years. And while my kiddos are reading the books, I will be re-reading them with the kids so that we can discuss things, because I happen to think that there are so many topics worth talking about in this series.
Secondly, I do like the books. They are very entertaining, yes, but as I said before, they can be a springboard for discussions with your kids (and others!) on so many topics. (I will get to those, I promise!!) The mix of primitive living with futuristic high tech world of this series is very interesting, and surprisingly easy to imagine. There is violence, yes, but I don't feel that it is unnecessarily violent or gory, considering the context of the books. I have the feeling that the movie may be more gory than the books. There is a romantic element in The Hunger Games and even more so in Catching Fire, which is very appealing to me, a hopeless romantic. (Admittedly, I am Team Peeta!) The themes of family, friendship, survival, doing what is right, responsibility, and love make you wonder what you would do in the character's places.
So, as promised, here are those topics in which I feel you can explore with your children (There could be some spoiler alerts!):
- Wild Edibles: After the death of her father, Katniss Everdeen, her mother and younger sister nearly die of starvation. Her mother is locked in a depression so crippling she is unable to care for her daughters. After spotting some dandelions, Katniss realizes that she has the knowledge to feed her family with wild plants, knowledge passed on to her by her father. Why not learn about wild edible plants in your area with your children, making a journal with pictures of them?
- Healing Plants and Herbs: Katniss' mother is a healer, having knowledge of what plants and herbs are useful for what ailments. This knowledge is handed down to Katniss' younger sister, Prim, who seems to have the "healing touch." Again, find out more about this, recording it in a journal.
- Hunting and Trapping Wild Game: Again, this is knowledge handed down to Katniss by her father, as well as learning from her friend, Gale. Katniss uses a bow and arrow for hunting, while Gale has a talent for snares. In the annual Hunger Games, other silent but fatal weapons are used, unfortunately on other youngsters, but the kids have this knowledge because of the kind of wildlife they have in their own district. Spears, knives, swords and even tridents are used. Perhaps you could learn a new skill with your kids, such as archery or even using a slingshot. Fishing is another recreation that can be wonderful family time, and just think: fresh fish for dinner!
- Children as Weapons: As unpleasant and revolting as it is, the Hunger Games of the book are used to keep the people in their places, reminding them that they are in the control of a society that will take and kill their children. Even more revolting and sad is the truth that this is not just a concept for novels and movies, but a startling reality. Think about the wars in Uganda, where children were stolen from their homes and villages, the boys to become child soldiers, the girls suffering rape, disease and motherhood while still children themselves.
- Dictators: Although the ruler in this series is called President Snow, there is never any mention of voting. The truth is he is a ruthless dictator, killing and/or punishing any who oppose him and his ideas. Sound familiar? Think of the history lessons you can tie in here.
- Self Sacrifice: Katniss becomes a tribute for the Hunger Games after volunteering to take her sister's place. However, her sacrifice begins when she assumes the role of bread winner (literally!) and provider after her father's death. Peeta, too, sacrifices his own welfare many times in favor of Katniss. Discuss this with your kids, and maybe look in the Bible for scripture about this topic.
- Breaking the Law: We teach our children to follow the rules and that it is wrong to break the law, but what of the laws are unjust and in place to slowly starve you? Katniss repeatedly breaks the law by going hunting and gathering outside of District 12's fence, selling some of the game at the local black market and keeping the rest to feed her family. What does the Bible say about government and keeping it's laws?
- Alcoholism: Katniss' and Peeta's mentor in the games is Haymitch, former tribute and victor of the Hunger Games. He is also an alcoholic. The emotional toll of being a Hunger Games victor is huge, and he turns to alcohol to escape the nightmares. Is that an excuse, certainly not, but understandable. We all have something we turn to for comfort, some healthy, some not. What/who can we turn to for comfort? How can you avoid alcohol/drug abuse?
- Romance: I use this for lack of a better term, but it is a completely relevant topic. There is kissing in the first book, talk of being wildly in love. In the second book there is more kissing and the emotions and feelings that can cause and result from kissing. Peeta and Katniss also sleep in the same bed, although there is no hanky-panky, they are fully clothed and I don't believe that any kissing takes place during these encounters. The romance is very G/PG rated, but it is the emotions involved that can be discussed, as well as if it is permissible for Katniss and Peeta to be sharing a bed. What about the love triangle of Katniss, Peeta and Gale?
- Drinking Water: We all need water to survive, but do we know how to acquire it? Do we know how to purify it? In the first book, Katniss uses iodine to purify her drinking water. In the second book (SPOILER ALERT) Katniss saves the day when she recognizes a spile from her knowledge of maple sugaring. She is able to get drinkable water from the trees that surround her.
So, that is my take on The Hunger Games series. It could be so easy to see our kids get caught up in the pop culture of the books and movie, but I feel that they are popular with good reason. They resonate with anyone with a self-reliant, self-sustaining, preparedness streak. They have certainly made me think about what knowledge I have and need to attain in the areas of wild edibles, healing plants, first aid and drinking water, as well as renewed my interest in archery.
- I whole heartily suggest that parents read this series, or at least the first book, to decide if they are appropriate for their children, and by no means do you need to wait for them to read them to address the above topics, but I know how it can be with children. Sometimes they need an outside influence to whet their appetites for things you would like to teach them, and I feel that this could be a tool.
Many blessings, (and may the odds be in your favor! ;D)